Monday, October 28, 2013

Dear Halloween...I love you.

I love Halloween.  I love the idea of dressing up as your favorite character or as one you made up with your own imagination. I love that you can be scary, pretty, ugly, funny, or silly.  It is one day out of the year that you can play dress-up no matter what age you are. As we grow up too many of us give into the peer pressure from friends who think "Halloween is stupid.  Dressing up is stupid."  It isn't stupid - it is an amazing way to remember what is feels like to be a kid.  We grow up so fast in today's world...what's so bad about one day reserved for dressing up, collecting candy from neighbors who exclaim in delight at your costume, and maybe making a little mischief?

As a child my mother taught me how to sew by helping us to make our Halloween costumes. Her mother made all of her costumes too. We would choose our costume sometime in June.  Then we would buy the pattern and the fabric and spend the next 4 months putting it together.  It takes a long time for 7-year old hands to sew an entire costume.  But to this day I am a fantastic hand-sewer because of my forays in Halloween costume design.

My sisters and I were hard core about our costumes.  In the early years we did a lot of team costumes.  And by early - I mean that Becky and I were three and Sam was 8.

Snow White (Sam), Dwarf(Becky), Dwarf (Me)
Cinderella(Sam), Mouse in a dress( Becky), Mouse in a Dress (Me)
Peter Pan (Sam), Wendy (Becky), Tinkerbell (Me)
Mad Hatter(Sam), Alice (Becky), Queen of Hearts (Me)

 Here's me as the Queen of Hearts...Notice how I took artistic liberty and gave myself a heart shaped mole.

I also sometimes went totally off-story and made up my own character.  Two personal favorites were Dot the Clown and the always unique Pig Goblin.  You don't see many Pig Goblins these days...or ever.

Our costumes always had to be kick-ass and as a result we mostly won our school's costume contests.  As the years went on we got good enough that there were a few costumes thought to be too good for us to have made them, and so we were unfairly excluded from prize consideration.  Becky's Merlin costume in the 8th grade and this Donald Duck Samantha made were too good to be believed.  
I suppose our love for Halloween should have died out in High School but we all went to LaGuardia High School for Music and Art and Performing Arts and Halloween was not for the faint of heart.  If you weren't making your costume you didn't come to school.  And the Halloween Parade for best costume was always incredible.  I made the scissor-hands for my friend Sara the year she won for best costume as Edward Scissorhands.  I never won myself but I made a kick-ass costumes every year and so did all the guys I had gone to Junior High School with who were as hard core about Halloween was I was.  My sister Becky and I have continued to dress up and find fun Halloween parties to attend all of our adult lives.  High-school friends Vinny Bova and Sean Madden started a Halloween Party in NYC called the "Greatest Halloween Party Ever" a few years ago - mainly for all of us adults who refuse to let the Spirit of Halloween die. Here's some of my costumes from the past few years - it's just as fun when you're in your thirties as when you're ten, believe you me.

Heather Brown as Peg Bundy.  Me as Wonder Woman Mid-Spin.

Becky as 28 Months Later - the Zombies have infected New York...

And me As the Illustrated Woman.

Becky as Werewolf Toto and me as the Apple Tree from Wizard of Oz.
Two Halloween's ago  Becky, Sam, Gerald and I did a team costume.  We were waiters from the Regal Beagle from Three's Company. (We won for best team costume) at Aaron Simms' Ghoulish Good Time Party.  I wouldn't know it for two weeks...but I was pregnant in this photo.  Which technically means that Clara was wearing a costume even then...

 Which leads me to my lovely Clara and Halloween.  She has no choice.  She has to love Halloween.    Last year she was three months old.  I dressed her up as the Great Pumpkin from Charlie Brown and took her to a Halloween Party. I crocheted the pumpkin hat.  I was Sally Brown and Gerald (who came home to take pictures and then had to go to work) was Linus.

This year I have gone bigger with the costume.  She is going to be Patrick Starfish from Spongebob Squarepants.  I made the costume myself without the benefit of a pattern.  I think it looks amazing and if there was a costume contest she would win it.

It's the first year I haven't dressed up for Halloween in many, many years.  But seeing my little girl dressed in a kick-ass homemade costume makes it all worth it.  (That and she's totally going to let me eat her candy)  I can't wait to see what costumes she comes up with in years to come...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Welcome to the Zoo.

As I read Clara countless books about zoo animals and farm animals, and play with puzzles about zoo animal and farm animals, and watch cartoons about (you guessed it) zoo animals and farm animals...I wonder: Why does Clara need to know so much  about zoo animals and farm animals???  Sure they're fun...and talking about horses and cows and zebras is endlessly interesting to Clara.  (And I do mean endlessly.)  But is she destined for a career in animal husbandry? She lives in Manhattan...not in a little house on the prairie. This animal inundation must be to blame for the thousands of little children who want to be zookeepers and veterinarians when they grow up. 

Should I be worried that most of Clara's first words are animal sounds?  Today when I asked her "What sound does a cow make?" She smiled at me and said: "Moooooooo" for the first time.  Moo has expanded her repertoire of animal sounds which currently includes: Quack Quack, Cluck Cluck, Oooo Oooo Oooo (monkey sounds, in case you were wondering), Oink Oink, Woof Woof, and Meow (she does a dead-on impression of our cat, Pistachio).

Is there a psychology behind this?  Actual science?  Does quacking like a duck make toddlers smarter? Is it a conspiracy by children's book publishers to inculcate malleable minds with a love for animals?  Is a monkey doll cheaper for toy companies to manufacture than a Cabbage Patch kid? I suppose, the question really is, who can I blame for this?  I mean seriously, at least don't include the animals that don't make sounds.  (I'm looking at you, Giraffe.) You try thinking up what sound a camel makes when your kid is pointing to the picture and looking up at you for an answer. (I settled on: "Ptoo!" which is my version of a camel spitting.)  The other day at the swings another mom and I compared notes on fish sounds.  Her sound for a fish:  "Bloob Bloob."  I prefer: "Glug. Glug."

In the meantime I guess I'll move onto: "Clara, what sound does a sheep make?"

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Potty Time = Party Time

After reading endless suggestions and idea of how to introduce children to the potty and toilet training I decided to embark on the potty journey while suppressing shudders of dread at attacking this new, vital hurdle.

I started this with no knowledge of potty training.  Seriously, who does have experience with these things?  It turns out my mother felt boondoggled by the idea of potty training and passed that task off to my grandmother, Mimi.  I have heard vague stories of how she enticed us not to pee in our pants by giving us fancy underwear to wear.  But my grandmother passed away, taking her magical secrets of potty training to her grave.

There are many ways to approach potty training.  I understand that Clara is only 15 months and has quite some time to go before actually being able to reliably control her bowels.  But I did read about how children sometimes get afraid of the potty if it is introduced abruptly and that can  delay toilet training for months.  This made sense.  How is Clara to know what this new, child-sized chair/bowl thing that magically appeared in the bathroom one day is?

 First  you have to understand that since since Clara has been able to crawl I have had to throw bathroom privacy out the window, which means that Clara is always looking on with interest as I drop my pants to use the toilet.  As embarrassing as this is, you get used to it.

The introduction of the new potty has added a wrinkle to the "Mom and Clara go to the bathroom together with the door open" episodes.  When I sit down, I ask Clara if she would like to sit down and go pee-pee and then I sit her on the potty.  The first few times she sat down she immediately stood up and took the potty apart and threw it in the bathtub.  

A week into this process, she will sit and try standing and sitting back down herself.

Today, after getting home from a long walk in the park and feeding her lunch I decided I was too frazzled to sit Clara down and do the whole song and dance.  Lo and behold...Clara walked over to me and squatted like she wanted to sit on the potty, all with no prompting!  I moved her to the potty and she happily sat there while I finished up my business.

Of course...there are the situations that make me think she really isn't getting it.  Like this one - last night.  She had pulled all of the dollar bills out of my pocket and I found her in the bathroom doing this.

As my friend Sindy said when she saw this picture:  "Well, there's money down the toilet."